Pakistan’s Turbulent Future

Pakistan, a Muslim country of 240 million people and a de facto nuclear power, most often appears in news reports in connection with one topic: the increased activity of Islamist radicals and international terrorists.

From the point of view of any scientific theory, a state can exist and develop successfully only when the opinions of broad segments of the population, including national and religious minorities, are taken into account. Whatever resources a state may possess, stable development can only be achieved by building a broad base of support and consent among its citizens. A stable political system requires a deep and effective system of checks and balances, where the interests and desires of many segments of the population are taken into account. The oppression and discrediting of minorities leads to the growth of discontent and radicalization of the masses, which can then become a serious problem for any political system. Only by taking into account the interests and hopes of the broad layers of the population and the masses it is possible to build a stable state. Otherwise, as world history has shown, states are doomed to failure.

Pakistan, a Muslim country of 240 million people and a de facto nuclear power, most often appears in news reports in connection with one topic: the increased activity of Islamist radicals and international terrorists. The roots of the idea of creating Pakistan as an independent state go back to the last decades of the 19th century, when Muslim separatism began to manifest itself in British colonial India. These sentiments received an organizational form in December 1906 with the creation of the All-India Muslim League. However, little is known about the internal situation in Pakistan. Often the real picture is distorted, and negative trends in politics or social sphere are not fully reflected in the world media.

Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif admitted during a session of the National Assembly that minorities are being persecuted because of religion. Expressing concern over the daily killings of minorities, the military chief said, “Every day, minorities are being killed. They are not safe under the guise of Islam. I want to address the issue of minority safety, but the opposition is blocking my efforts. Pakistan is facing global embarrassment. Asif emphasized that no religious minority, including smaller sects within Islam, is safe in Pakistan despite constitutional protection. Asif called for a resolution to protect minorities, emphasizing that many victims of violence had nothing to do with blasphemy charges but were victimized because of personal vendettas.

Pakistani minister said: “Even smaller Muslim sects are not safe in Pakistan, which is a disgraceful situation. We intend to propose a resolution to protect minorities. While our constitution guarantees minority rights, there are incidents of violence occurring across various locations. Those who have been killed so far did not have any evidence linking them to blasphemy; rather, these killings seem to stem from personal vendettas”.

According to reports, HRCP and Human Rights Watch, Hindus, Sikhs and other minorities in Pakistan continue to face challenges such as forced conversions, kidnappings, killings and attacks on their places of worship.The situation remains volatile, with incidents occurring in different regions. Moreover, the Ahmadiyya community faces severe persecution, including legal restrictions on their religious practice, hate speech and violent attacks. They continue to be attacked because of their religious beliefs, with incidents being reported across the country. Similarly, Christians face discrimination in employment, education and accusations of blasphemy, leading to widespread violence and attacks on churches. Pakistan’s legal framework discriminates against religious minorities, contributing to their marginalization and vulnerability.

Repression in Pakistan also targeted the Shiites, the second-largest group in Islam. Despite their small numbers, the Shiites represent an economically and politically influential group. The creator of Pakistan, M.A.Jinnah, the country’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Alikhan, the first President, Iskander Mirza, a major but not particularly successful reformer, Z.A.Bhutto and other prominent figures.

However, these are not the only problems faced by ordinary Pakistanis. A number of national minorities practicing Sunni Islam are also subjected to repression. Especially in recent years, the situation has worsened in the west of the country, in the province of Baluchistan. The fact is that the Pakistani state is unable to cope with the economic and social problems of the region and cannot solve urgent issues of everyday life of the general population. This leads to the growth of opposition activities and discontent against Islamabad. At the same time, in recent years, the Pakistan Army has been conducting anti-terrorist operations on the Afghan-Pakistani border on a permanent basis. This has caused serious discontent on the part of civilians. Many observers have noted the indiscriminate and brutal nature of the operations carried out by the Pakistani military.

Thus, prominent Baloch activist Mahrang Baloch claims that the Pakistani state and especially the ISI military are involved in the disappearance of the families of the protesters. He said the day before that the families of the missing people who participated in the march were being forcibly disappeared by the state and called it a “brutal act of attacking the families of the victims to sabotage their struggle.” In a communication to X Mahrang Baloch said, “The families of the missing Baloch people who participated in the march are being forcibly disappeared by the state, which is a brutal act of attack on the families of the victims to sabotage their struggle.” Expressing her disappointment, Baloch stated: “The state continues to pursue brutal and repressive policies against Balochistan.”

 Thus, despite some economic successes, Pakistan still faces deep divisions between different ethnic and religious groups. Unfortunately, as practice shows, addressing these challenges is not a priority for the Government of Pakistan. On the contrary, the discontent of the general population and minorities is met with a harsh and sometimes outright brutal response from the Pakistani army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Western governments prefer not to see these violations, mostly limiting themselves to criticism from various human rights organizations. However, the problem of stability and sustainable development should be of primary concern to Pakistani statesmen. It is they who should realize that it is impossible to create an effective state if its own citizens are oppressed.

Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatryan, associate professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University and Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.